APS Column: Highlights and accomplishment from another successful school year

Published 5:25 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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By Dr. Joey Page

Austin Public Schools Superintendent

As we celebrate the Class of 2024 next Friday, and with the approach of summer, I wanted to take a moment to share how Austin Public Schools has advanced the district’s strategic plan throughout the school year. The commitment of our teachers, staff, students, families/caregivers, and community partners has allowed us to create a collective vision for excellence, and I am deeply grateful for their hard work and service.

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At the forefront of the strategic plan is a commitment to foster a safe and inclusive environment where every student feels supported and empowered. Initiatives such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks) have helped our schools nurture academic achievement and personal growth, focusing on improving student behavior through relationship building.

Another major highlight has been developing and implementing the “Packer Profile” for all learners. The Packer Profile aims to build strong character qualities such as responsibility and resiliency. We made great strides with the launch of Packer Pathways, a program that helps students explore potential careers. Starting in the fall, a new class, Packer Profile Seminar, will provide 9th-grade students with new opportunities to explore their interests and strengths.

Overall, the Packer Profile is helping our district prepare students for life after graduation through career development, and I’m excited to see how this program continues to evolve.

Further, our district has expanded our network of multi-tiered systems of support. Instructional coaches provide personalized support for students in reading and math, while Success Coaches work with non-English speaking families to help them navigate their student’s educational experience. Technology coaches help teachers effectively integrate technology into their classrooms. These programs are filling gaps to meet student and staff needs.

Meanwhile, the district’s financial decisions have supported our commitment to equity and efficiency. For example, staff has successfully been working on transitioning our kindergarten into neighborhood schools, bringing our early childhood programming together, and unifying the IJ Holton Intermediate and Ellis Middle School campuses. These changes have optimized our educational spaces and helped us manage resources more efficiently.

Overall, these efforts produce tangible results, with graduation rates and district enrollment increasing. In addition, our students, staff, and programs have been recognized for their achievements over the past year. Austin Public Schools was named one of the Best Communities for Music Education by The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.  Most recently, the Minnesota Department of Education named three Austin students Scholars of Distinction. This prestigious award recognizes exceptional performance and achievement by students in grades 11 and 12, and of the eleven students honored statewide, three are from Austin. Congratulations to Ellen Ekins, Mia King, and Eeva Nelson. We couldn’t be prouder.

While the accomplishments I’ve highlighted represent only a fraction of our progress, I hope they give our community a deeper understanding of what makes our district so special.

Austin Public Schools remains dedicated to building on this momentum as we look ahead to the next school year and beyond. Thank you to every person who contributed to the many successes of the 2023-24 school year. I feel fortunate to be part of such a dynamic and dedicated district community.

Have a great summer!